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Greg Fergus Makes History as Canada’s First Black Speaker of the House of Commons

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Canada's House of Commons recently elected Greg Fergus as its new speaker, making him the first Black Canadian to hold the position. This historic moment comes after the previous speaker, Anthony Rota, resigned due to controversy surrounding his invitation of a former Nazi soldier to parliament. Fergus, a Liberal Party lawmaker, received a standing ovation from fellow MPs and members of various caucuses, including the Liberals, NDP, Bloc Québécois, and a small number of Conservatives.[0]

As the speaker of the House of Commons, Fergus will have several important roles and responsibilities. First and foremost, he will serve as the spokesperson for the House in its dealings with the Senate, the Crown, and other bodies outside of Parliament. Additionally, Fergus will oversee the administration of the House of Commons, ensuring its smooth operation and serving as a representative of the institution in ceremonial and diplomatic capacities.

The role of the speaker is crucial in maintaining order and decorum during debates and parliamentary proceedings. The speaker acts as an impartial arbitrator of parliamentary procedure, ensuring fairness and adherence to the rules. They only vote in the event of a tie and play a ceremonial role as an institutional representative of parliament.

Fergus's election as speaker marks only the third time in Canadian history that a speaker has not completed their full term.[1] The longest-serving member of the House, Bloc Québécois MP Louis Plamondon, was appointed as an interim speaker, a first in Canadian history.[1] This move demonstrates the House's commitment to rising above partisanship and maintaining the integrity of the speaker position.[2]

The process of selecting a new speaker involved all members of Parliament, except for party leaders and ministers, being eligible to put themselves on the ballot.[1] They had until 6 p.m. on Monday to remove their names from the list before the vote took place on Tuesday.[2] Several MPs from the Conservative, Liberal, and NDP parties, as well as Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, expressed their interest in the role.[3]

The election of Fergus as speaker not only signifies a historic milestone for Black Canadians but also highlights the importance of respect and decorum in parliamentary proceedings.[4] Fergus emphasized the significance of respect in his first speech from the chair, stating that it is a fundamental part of their work and essential for effective dialogue.

In a traditional ceremony, Fergus was “dragged” to the speaker's chair by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre.[5] This age-old tradition had many Canadians online confused but is a symbolic gesture that marks the beginning of Fergus's tenure as speaker.

Fergus's first task as speaker will be to help the House turn the page on the embarrassing incident involving Yaroslav Hunka, the former Nazi soldier who was invited to parliament.[6] He aims to promote respect and decorum among parliamentarians and show Canadians a positive example.

Overall, Fergus's election as the first Black Canadian speaker of the House of Commons is a significant moment in Canadian history. It highlights the country's commitment to diversity and inclusivity and sets a precedent for future leaders. Fergus's role as speaker will be crucial in maintaining parliamentary order and upholding the integrity of the institution. With his emphasis on respect and decorum, Fergus aims to create a positive and productive environment for dialogue and decision-making in the House of Commons.

0. “Speeches underway to elect next House Speaker in historic mid-session election” The Chronicle Journal, 3 Oct. 2023, https://www.chroniclejournal.com/news/national/speeches-underway-to-elect-next-house-speaker-in-historic-mid-session-election/article_44a476dc-3fa7-54ae-ac01-743918018849.html

1. “House prepares to vote on new Speaker in rare mid-session election as MPs vie for job” Cochrane Eagle, 2 Oct. 2023, https://www.cochraneeagle.ca/national-news/house-prepares-to-vote-on-new-speaker-in-rare-mid-session-election-as-mps-vie-for-job-7628518

2. “House prepares to vote on new Speaker in rare mid-session election as MPs vie for job – Canada News” Castanet.net, 2 Oct. 2023, https://www.castanet.net/news/Canada/449947/House-prepares-to-vote-on-new-Speaker-in-rare-mid-session-election-as-MPs-vie-for-job

3. “MPs to Vote for New Speaker Today” 104.7 Heart FM, 3 Oct. 2023, https://www.heartfm.ca/news/local-news/mps-to-vote-for-new-speaker-today

4. “Canada picks first Black House speaker after Nazi row” The Jerusalem Post, 4 Oct. 2023, https://www.jpost.com/international/article-761596

5. “Why new House Speaker Greg Fergus was ‘dragged' to his chair” NOW Toronto, 4 Oct. 2023, https://nowtoronto.com/news/why-new-house-speaker-greg-fergus-was-dragged-to-his-chair/

6. “Canada picks first black House of Commons Speaker” MercoPress, 4 Oct. 2023, https://en.mercopress.com/2023/10/04/canada-picks-first-black-house-of-commons-speaker

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